Nioh 2 starts the brutal choices early: what are you going to choose as your starting weapon? It sounds like a wooly cliche, but the best weapon in Nioh 2 is the one you like the most and suits your chosen playstyle.
Just like the first game, each of the starting weapons are pretty balanced but have definite strengths and weaknesses.
Below we’ve provided some meta commentary based on what you’re likely to encounter in your first playthrough of the game. We’re not going to go into OP meme builds you can make at level 100, but rather the characteristics of the starting weapons you can choose and how you can use them in normal play.
The weapons you use in Nioh 2 are affected by your character’s stats, and their damage increases depending on the skill points you spend in particular areas. Below is a table of which weapons benefit from points in different skills, followed by a run-down of each weapon type.
|Nioh 2 Weapon Type||Primary Scaling||Secondary Scaling||Tertiary Scaling|
|Dual Katana Swords||Skill||Heart||Strength|
|Axe||Stamina||Courage (Constitution)||Strength (Courage)|
Nioh 2 Best Starting Weapon - which should you choose
The Katana sword is a rock-solid basic weapon and an exemplary choice for your starting weapon in Nioh 2 whether you’re new to the series or not.
Katanas have access to decent combos in all three stances, and well as decent range on thrust attacks.
Their blocking ability is mediocre, but they deal good stamina damage to a guarding enemy, called “Break”.
The damage on the Katana scales best with Heart, followed by skill, which means they synergise well with Dual Swords, Hatchets, and Bows and Rifles on ranged - with Light Armour equipped to your body. However, because of its Strength scaling the Katana can easily be used with heavier armour sets too.
They also work best for the samurai role-play of Nioh 2’s feudal Japanese setting, so there’s that to consider.
- Choose if: You like vanilla ice cream, or want a supremely versatile weapon that will do the job well in absolutely every situation in the game.
- Avoid if: You want longer range, stronger blocking potential, or a more specialised character.
Dual Swords -
Why settle for one measly starting sword, when you can have two? Dual Swords make up for the punch they lose on each hit with speed, which makes them good at imbuing statuses.
While they tend to be worse at attacking into a guarding enemy than the regular Katana, they’re often much better at blocking themselves, which helps with the Light Armour they synergize best with.
You will want to buff your Skill and Heart to wield the Dual Swords effectively, which means they work well with single Katanas or a Spear as your other starting weapon.
- Choose if: You like the idea of the Katana but want something faster, or you want to wear Light Armour and imbue element statuses.
- Avoid if: You want to wear Heavy Armour, want something with higher base attack.
In Nioh 2, spear users are really annoying to face because their keep away and rushing game is so strong.
If you like to zone out enemies and keep your distance, then the Spear could be the best starting weapon in Nioh 2 for you.
Their damage increases based on your constitution, so you’ll have a lot of health with a Spear build. They also scale with Strength and Skill, which makes them go well with Odachi or Dual Swords to switch up your offensive style.
It’s worth mentioning that some of the tougher encounters in the early parts of Nioh 2 are in tight spaces where you might struggle with a Spear if you’re unfamiliar. However patient play will more than make up for this.
Spears have a good block and deal high ki damage to guarding opponents, making them a good starting choice.
- Choose if: You like to zone out enemies and keep them at arm’s length, or want to make a tankier character without being super slow.
- Avoid if: You panic in enclosed spaces, or struggle with timing.
Contrary to what you’d think, the giant axes and hammers you can choose to start Nioh 2 with scale their damage with stamina rather than strength. This means they’re best teamed with another large weapon: the Odachi.
If big weapons and big damage numbers are your jam, along with heavy armour, then an axe might be your best starting weapon.
Stamina also increases your health, so this is the way to go for a tank character. With that said, Axes often have bad blocking, but deal high ki damage to a guarding opponent.
- Choose if: Big base damage is your favourite.
- Avoid if: You struggle with timing slow attacks, or want to use light armour.
A Kusarigama is a curved blade attached to a brutal metal ball or barb by a chain, giving you access to slashing as well as blunt attacks across your three stances.
The Kusarigama has some deceptively long-range attacks in its arsenal, but in mid stance primarily hits in close with quick attacks. This makes it good at imbuing status elements.
A Kusarigama’s damage scales best with Dexterity, making it the true ninja’s choice by synergizing well with Ninjutsu techniques.
One weakness of this weapon though is that it tends to have weak break (ki damage dealt to guarding enemies) and blocking.
- Choose if: You like fast weapons with versatile range, or want to focus on Ninjutsu.
- Avoid if: You want to make a tankier character, or want a weapon with high raw damage output.
I really like the Odachi’s moveset. It has powerful zoning capabilities with its mid stance heavy attack and its basic mid and low stance combos chew through regular enemies. Its reach also makes it strong in boss fights. What’s more, you can find it with a range of attacking elements and good special effects.
However, while it has the highest break of any melee weapon, its blocking is poor.
These weapons scale best with strength and stamina, so work well with Spears that give you a bit of a different option with your starting weapon.
- Choose if: You want consistently high damage, versatile range, and options to imbue elemental damage.
- Avoid if: You struggle with timing slow attacks, or want to use light armour (although I did use an Odachi and light armour for most of my first playthrough).
The Tonfa are a funny one. They tend to give you bonuses for wearing little armour and attacking quickly, which is reflected in their damage scaling best with the courage skill.
Tonfa have average break and block, and pair well with Spears because of their secondary Constitution scaling - you’ll need the health.
- Choose if: You’re an absolute hard nut, like attacking quickly, and want a melee weapon to scale with your Ninjutsu but not as a primary focus.
- Avoid if: You want a more conventional playstyle, wear heavy armour, or keep distance.
Dual Hatchets -
Dual Hatchets are similar to Tonfa, but scale with Skill. They have a tertiary scaling in Magic, which makes them a useful fast melee option for imbuing the elements you conjure with talismans.
They have good break and block and often come with elements ready imbued onto the weapons themselves. So if you like attacking quickly with a fiery flourish, then check out the Dual Hatchets. What's more, you can throw your axes at enemies for some medium-range utility.
Skill scaling makes them work well with Spears and Dual Swords, but most will probably use them for the magic connection.
- Choose if: You like attacking quickly, you like elemental damage.
- Avoid if: You prefer Ninjutsu to Magic.
Finally, the Switchglaive is the most fantasy flavoured of the bunch.
If you’re after something flashy and a little bit different from your starting weapon, then pick one up.
While they have poor block, their break is decent, and their primary Magic scaling is unique. The Switchglaive loot pool is quite small from my experience, but the mid stance rushing moveset is fun to dash around with, and Onmyo Magic is a very useful tool in-game.
Secondary Skill scaling means you can team this with a more traditional Dual Sword or Dual Hatchet set up to create a hybrid Magic wielding character. And this also means you’ll also be likely to focus on light armour.
- Choose if: You like looking cool, want to focus on Magic
- Avoid if: You want Magic to be a support rather than your main focus, you want to use heavy armour
For more guidance on making your starting character, we also have pages on which Guardian Spirit you should choose, as well as a run-down of the best skills we've used so far in Nioh 2.
Nioh 2 Best Weapons
Most of the weapons in Nioh 2 drop randomly, so there might be brilliant or even better variations of the starting weapon types that I simply haven’t seen.
Again, these recommendations of what to look out for are based on you playing the game through for the first time, rather than maxing out a particular build for the memes.
Towards the end of the game you unlock missions in the dojo which reward you with great weapons of each type - I won’t list these as it’s kind of a spoiler, and it’s obvious when and where you can get them. They’re all good options.
Best katana swords -
Tokagemaru is probably the most common Yokai weapon that you’ll find throughout the game, so luckily it’s a good one. As with all Yokai weapons it will imbue the Corruption element, which deals additional ki damage to enemies.
They often come with extra buffs to your base attack for executing melee kills, on top of other bonuses. For katana users, this will likely be your go-to weapon for most of the base game.
This is my personal favourite weapon for a lot of the late-game. While it’s general bonuses are mostly lacklustre, Raikiri makes up for that with powerful potential to imbue the Lightning element, which slows enemies.
Slow is very, very strong against myriad enemies in Nioh 2, so Raikiri will no-doubt serve you well.
For heavy armour users, the Sohaya Tsurugi is part of the Tranquil Foundations set with the Greater Good Armour. As well as buffing your life and ki, the big buffs to melee damage, damage reduction make it a strong armour set. Not to mention the 30% chance to get a free elixir every time you use one.
I use the Haccho Nenbutsu as part of a mixed set for the Saika’s Yatagarasu buffs. It’s quite easy to stack 3-4 pieces of this set in the background so that you get life drain on your bullseye hits, along with hefty savings on ki spent dodging and melee damage.
Best dual swords -
Weathered Bone & Bleached Twig:
Weathered Bone is similar to the Tokagemaru in that it’s a common Yokai weapon. If you’re using Dual swords, it’s a solid choice.
Seki Dual Uchigatana:
On the Purity side of things, check out the Seki Dual Uchigatana. The fast attack speed of the Dual Swords builds statuses quickly, which is useful against the stronger Yokai enemies.
Ogo & Nagamei Masamune:
You obtain this weapon quite late in the game, but it forms part of the Multitude of Hopes set which buffs your melee damage and automatically regenerates your health when it gets low.
Keeping it equipped in the background still bags you the benefits, so it’s worth considering for any build.
Best Spears -
The common Yokai spear is the Bonepile Spear, although it’s superseded by the Kokora Spear later in the game.
The Realmtaker Spear forms part of the Heroic Raging Bull set, which is a decent choice for heavy armour users. Just a few pieces of the set gives bonuses to life, damage taken, and melee damage, with an automatic health regen effect the more parts you equip.
Mataza’s Long Spear:
However, if you’re a true fan of the Spear, then you will likely go with Mataza’s Long Spear, which in the late game forms part of the Master of Spears set. This buffs your Spear damage massively, stacking multiple improvements onto your thrust attacks, while also giving you more maneuverability.
Best Axes -
For cheap Corruption on a heavy weapon, look no further than the Demon’s Axe Yokai weapon.
The Demon’s Axe Purity counterpart is the Evil-Crusher Hammer.
Ryomen Sukuna’s Axe:
For something more exotic though, try the Ryomen Sukna’s Axe. It often has decent background abilities too, so could be worth equipping for any character.
It usually imbues Corruption, with a high familiarity threshold that boosts its damage ceiling.
Best Kusarigama -
Black Bamboo Kusarigama:
The Black Bamboo Kusarigama is an interesting early game weapon, because it’s one of the first you can find which imbues an element: Paralysis.
Low stance attacks and quick mid stance melee attacks are fast with the Kusarigama, which leads to good Paralysis build-up.
Rotten Rope Cutter:
Or if you’re just looking for solid Corruption damage with the Kusarigama, look no further than the Rotten Rope Cutter.
Best Odachi -
This is likely the first Yokai weapon you will find. Odachi are good weapons, and this is a solid choice at any stage of the game, although it’s element imbuing potential will be outstripped later without Tempering.
A lot of enemies you face in Nioh 2 are based in the fire element, which makes a reliable source of water damage very appealing. Team the Taro Tachi with the Ferryman’s Robes for powerful life drain along with bonus water damage.
But with that said, Fire is also a strong element in Nioh 2, which is where the Kamui comes in. This has the added advantage of often having solid extra special effects too.
Best Tonfa -
Double-headed Snake Tonfa:
Like other fast weapons, Tonfa are good at imbuing statuses. This makes the common Yokai weapons like the Double-headed Snake dangerous to face.
Twin Dragon Tonfa:
The Twin Dragons imbue fire element on your enemies quickly with rapid strikes.
Whereas the Yin-Yang Tonfa deal extra water damage.
Best Dual Hatchets -
Gyosha Hand Axe:
The Gyosha Hand Axes are probably the most consistent weapon you will find to imbue the Purity element, which makes them strong against Yokai. They also have a good balance between attack speed and power.
Radiant Flame is just like the last set of axes, but imbues fire instead.
For water damage, you’re looking out for Iceberg.
Urn Splitter Hatchets:
If you’re serious about using Dual Hatchets though, you need to seek out the Urn Splitter Hatchets. Teamed with the Smirkwiper sword, these form part of the Bold and the Boorish set which rewards you for being aggressive, and strengthens your hatchets’ damage output as well as your ki recovery - so you can keep swinging for longer.
Best Switchglaives -
I haven’t seen that many interesting Switchglavies so far, most likely because their playstyle focuses on magic.
This means you will most likely be focused on the Seething Dragon Yokai Weapon which drops throughout Nioh 2.
Best Bows -
Master Archer’s Bow:
There aren’t that many special weapons when it comes to bows, but if you want an archery focused build then there’s only one place to look: the Master Archer’s Bow. This forms part of the Golden Boy set that buffs your arrows while increasing your life total and reducing incoming damage.
Outside of that your best bet is the Borehole Bow, which tends to come with hefty special effect buffs to arrow damage.
Warrior of the West Bow:
If you’re into heavy armour, then you could look at equipping the Warrior of the West Bow in the background to get that armour set’s massive boost to melee damage.
Best Rifles -
The Kunimoto Rifle is special because it often has the special effect of reducing an enemy’s attack power when you shoot them. If you like to weave shots into your general combat style rather than picking Yokai off with headshots, then this is a good option.
The Ravenwing Rifle is a really easy piece to equip in the background to form part of the Saika’s Yatagarasu set. Just 2 pieces gives all of your bullseye hits a large life drain effect. While the dodge ki reduction and melee damage buffs are also great.
Best Hand Cannon -
The basic Hand Cannon can have a variety of special effects which make it useful, however the Yorhu Cannon often comes with the interesting Auto-Target Weak Point Effect, which is fun. To use it, you have to lock on-to an enemy and aim, which makes it good for spamming in boss fights for cheap damage.
If that’s not fancy enough for you, look out for the imposing Dragon’s Roar in the late game. This deals extra damage at close range, and well as adding life drain to your bullseye hits.
If you want a hand with learning how to use these weapons more efficiently, we have a combat tips page including how to pull off a perfect Ki Pulse.